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Colleagues who have worked with Leroy McDermott have described him as “scholarly,” “gracious,” and “distinguished.” These are qualities he shared with hundreds of art students during his 24-year career as a UCM faculty member in the Department of Art and Design.
The professor emeritus was the first person ever hired by the university specifically to teach art history, having joined the faculty in 1987 at a time when the art department was expanding and seeking accreditation. While he was teaching, every student pursuing an art major took one of McDermott’s courses, having titles such as Ideas and the Visual Arts, Art History Survey, 20th Century Art and Architecture, and Contemporary Art and Design. He also taught courses dealing with Western and non-Western art, prehistoric and modern art, and much more.
McDermott was engaged in numerous book reviews and scholarly projects which resulted in paper presentations before professional groups and publication in prestigious journals such as “Current Anthropology” and “American Antiquity.” Among his special research interests was the study of Gravettian objects, known commonly as “Venus figures.” Such figurines often depict women that are proportionally distorted having enlarged breasts, stomachs, small hands, feet, and faces with no detail. McDermott theorized these figures did not represent fertility objects as many scholars believe, but were actually created by women peering down upon their own bodies.
McDermott opened doors for his students to learn more about art on an international level by establishing the annual London-Paris Museum Study Tour, in which he led 11 groups to museums and monuments of Paris and London between 1993 and 2003.The longtime UCM educator earned his bachelor’s degree at Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, and Master of Art History and doctoral degrees at the University of Kansas, Lawrence